Re-establishment of the Baixo Mondego marshes (1st phase)

LIFE92 NAT/P/014100

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Contact details:

Project Manager: M DOS SANTOS

Project description:


The Mondego River valley was once a major ecological corridor, but of its former extensive wetlands, only three wetlands remain: Paul de Arzila, Paul da Madriz and Paul do Taipal. Located in the lower reaches of the river between Coimbra and the sea, these freshwater marshes harbour a great range of important European species. Some 46 bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive as well as several endangered reptiles, amphibians and fish are found there. Together these areas constitute an interconnected biotope large enough to ensure the viability of these populations.
The three wetland sites are mainly privately-owned and were under threat from drainage and the expansion of rice growing, including pollution by agricultural chemicals used in the rice fields adjoining the marshes. These are degrading the characteristic vegetation of the marshes and making them less hospitable for the animals that have their habitat in these wetlands. Illegal hunting was also a significant threat to birds in the area.


The project sought to preserve the three wetlands of the Baixo Mondego marshes (i.e., Paul de Arzila, Paul da Madriz and Paul do Taipal). Key areas would be safeguarded from degradation by land purchase and subsequent management. Disturbance of the sites would be brought under control through surveillance by rangers. The development of sustainable alternatives to intensive land use, such as organic farming and eco-tourism, would also be promoted – including the construction of nature trails and information centres.
Finally, the project planned to inform the general public on the district’s ecology and natural heritage. And a longer term aim was that once safeguarded, the marshes could become key locations for scientific research and environmental education.


The main achievement was the acquisition of 65 ha of land to help safeguard the freshwater marshes from degradation: 52.7 ha were bought in Paul do Taipal and 12 ha in Paul de Arzila.
Following on from this, rotational organic farming of rice and corn was started and the controlled use of herbicides and pesticides instigated under the biotope management of the three wetlands. Nature trails were developed and guided visits / nature walks with wardens organised. An information centre was built at Paul de Arzila, and a second centre, at Paul de Madriz, was almost completed under the project period (and subsequently completed in the period after LIFE).
Importantly, meetings were held with the relevant government authorities concerning the proposed classification of the Paul do Taipal wetland – that had no protection status – as a special protection area (SPA) within the Natura 2000 Network.
Finally, environmental awareness on the value of the Baixo Mondego marshes was also increased under the project. For example, through environmental education talks, given by wardens, on traditional methods of water-use (e.g., in rice cultivation), as well as scientific and technical sessions.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Freshwater


endangered species‚  environmental education‚  river‚  environmental awareness‚  tourist facility‚  wetland‚  land purchase‚  water pollution‚  preventive measure

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PTZPE0006 Paul da Madriz
SPA PTZPE0040 Paul do Taipal
SCI PTCON0005 Paul de Arzila



Coordinator Serviçio Nacional de Parques, Reservas e Conservação da Natureza
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description The beneficiary is the government body responsible for the management of state-owned protected areas (parks and reserves) and for nature conservation and biodiversity policies. It is part of the Portuguese Ministry for the Environment.


Project reference LIFE92 NAT/P/014100
Duration 01-JAN-1993 to 31-DEC -1995
Total budget 1,000,000.00 €
EU contribution 500,000.00 €
Project location Centro(Portugal)


Read more:

Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Life after Life A review of the long-term effects ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version